My 10-Year Smoke-Free Anniversary

Yesterday marked the date of my 10th smoke-free anniversary.

Wow…that’s really quite the accomplishment. When I sit here and think about it, it’s hard to believe that I quit smoking that long ago. Heck…sometimes I forget that I ever smoked at all. That, my friends, is a GOOD thing.

I started smoking when I turned 16. This was back in the 1980’s and it was a completely different culture than it is today. You could still smoke on the high school grounds. Heck, you could even go down to the corner store and buy cigarettes for $0.25 each (yes….they sold single cigs back then). It seemed like pretty much everybody was doing it.

I was always a bit of a nerd and was never really one to be considered “cool”. My friends…especially the guys that I wanted to hang out with…were smoking. They probably only smoked to “look cool”, and back then we simply didn’t know any better. That’s just how it was.

I started by having a couple of puffs…coughing up a lung…and then trying another couple of puffs. I didn’t really care for it, but I got to hang out with “the boyz” and I felt like I was actually fitting in (self-esteem has always been an issue with me).

I’ll never forget my first full cigarette. It was a Mark Ten. It was disgusting. The bell rang as I finished it and I immediately went to class. In a matter of minutes I turned green. I excused myself from the class and went straight to the washroom, at which point I proceeded to throw up so hard that I passed out.

You would think this experience would have scared me off cigarettes forever. Nah…not a chance. I didn’t want the cigarette to beat me. I needed to win. After just a few more days, I was a “regular smoker”.

In the years that followed I became a pack-a-day smoker (and not the 20-packs that Americans are used to…but the Canadian 25-packs…and KING sized, to boot…since I told myself it made the smoking experience last a little bit longer). Sometimes I’d smoke even more than a pack depending on the day and the situation (I could go out to a club and smoke an entire 25-pack in a single evening). When I look back, it really is disgusting just how bad I became. I started to measure time by how many cigarettes I could have (ex: driving 30 minutes would be three cigarettes if I puffed quickly). I would sometimes smoke so much in the evening that I would start to gag and cough so hard that my chest would feel like a brick fell on it. Instead of calling it a night, I would get mad at my body for not allowing me the chance to “enjoy” my cigarette…so I would chain-smoke until I got through an entire cigarette without coughing. OUT OF SPITE.

I loved to smoke. LOVED it. After a big meal…in the car…after sex. It was the perfect end to any day and was the best way to start my morning. I was 100% totally addicted to cigarettes and I didn’t want it any other way.

When I met my ex-wife, she wasn’t too keen on the fact that I was a smoker. But at the time, it didn’t matter. She liked me for me and my “bad boy” image (ugh…I was such a tool). Anyway, we dated for a couple of years and she knew just how much of a smoker I was. She put up with it…the bitter cold in the car when I would roll the window just a crack in the middle of winter, the rolling of the eyes when I would go outside in the middle of a thunderstorm just to inhale smoke, the kissing of the ashtray…she dealt with it all.

But then came the moment that changed my life: she told me that she wouldn’t marry me unless I quit smoking.

She didn’t want to be married to somebody who would be dead long before she was. And then it hit me…she wouldn’t actually marry me unless I quit. She wasn’t bluffing. So I quit on February 23rd, 2004 and proposed on February 28th. At the time, I thought it was the perfect way to make me quit: I’d lose what I thought was the love of my life if I started up again.

As the marriage QUICKLY deteriorated, I began to resent her because she made me quit something I loved to do. Of course, that was just me finding another reason to blame her for something, but I think the feelings were still there and were very real at the time.

Once we split up, I had just started a new job and was sent down to Houston, Texas for four weeks of training. I was just craving cigarettes incredibly at this point, figuring I could now “be free” of her chains and shackles and do whatever I wanted. You could smoke anywhere in Houston…restaurants, bars, elementary schools (although I may want to double-check that last one)…and the cigs were soooo cheap. I mean seriously…three packs for $10? The last time I heard it was over $10/pack up here in the Great White North. So how could I turn that down??

But then the realization of the situation set in. I had already quit for 3 years. I was feeling healthier, my daughter was happy to know that I’d “be alive longer” (her words), I could shovel snow and not feel like I was going to die after three minutes, and I could actually taste food better now (not really that great knowing my weight issues now). At the end of the day, there were just so many reasons to NOT smoke (and don’t even get me started on the cost factor).

So I didn’t…and here it is TEN years later and I’m still smoke free.

I’m happier. I’m healthier. I’m the WORST pain in the ass to anybody who does smoke…because all ex-smokers know that they’re the worst critics of those who still do smoke. And above all else, I’m with Sunshine…who, quite frankly, wouldn’t have even dated me to begin with if I was still smoking.

Addiction is a brutal thing, but if you truly know that quitting is the right thing for you to do, you’ll know how to quit and make it last. I’m just very thankful that I’ve been able to do just that.

Fun Music Friday

It’s been way too long since I’ve done one of these.

Basically, I’m a very musical person at heart. I’m a former club DJ and former university radio station program director who still leaves, breathes, and loves music each and every day. It’s a passion for me…not just a past time.

So with this said, let’s try to re-start a “Fun Music Friday”…which is just a collection of songs that I want to listen to that will help jump-start my weekend. And hopefully you’ll find a song or two that you’ve never heard before…

Fortune teller’s heart – Slowcoaster
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Zlf6X_xtM

This is a band from Sydney, Nova Scotia that is becoming more and more popular in the area thanks to radio stations picking them up. You’ve probably never heard of them or of this song, so give it a listen. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Rude – MAGIC!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIh2xe4jnpk

This is another Canadian band and, quite honestly, the video’s a little on the cheesy side. But one or two listens to this reggae-pop song and you’ll be singing right along to the lyrics.

Odds Are – Barenaked Ladies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Sw9Fh6uk4Q

A lot of people outside of Canada forget that these guys are still releasing good music. The song is catchy and the video is a hoot. I think you’ll like it!

Doesn’t Really Matter – Platinum Blonde
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4SOnBDe7qs

Sunshine and I recently purchased tickets to see this 80’s band in concert. We’re both looking forward to it and this is one of my favourite songs of theirs.

Forget It In A Day – Nicolas Megalis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMahmxxAtO0

You might remember this guy from his infectiously entertaining Vine videos (like this one), but he’s got a single out now that I absolutely love. It’s quirky and different and unlike the pop music that’s out there now. Give it a shot!

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That’s all I’ve got for this Friday. I hope you end up having a great weekend!!

Direction

You would think that at this stage in my life…a 41 year old re-married father of a brood who is finally where he wants to be on a personal level and a professional level…I’d have finally got things figured out. You would think that I finally worked out a plan so that I know what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis.

Some days, though, I feel like I’m completely lost and haven’t got a clue where to go next.

It’s not any one particular thing…it’s just a general sense of “me”. Rather, it’s my constant want and need to improve and grow as a person that is battling against my constant want and need to self-destruct so I can feel some self-loathing and think that’s the “normal” way to live.

For example, I have this whole issue with my weight that has been going on for years (pretty much since I separated from my first wife). In the year after I quit smoking (I was a pack-a-day for 16 years), I gained almost 50 pounds. That decision to quit, while certainly the smart one, was also one that changed my life completely as I’ve constantly battled my waist-line ever since.

I start…I stop. I blog to keep myself accountable but then I quit. I make progress…I self-destruct. I blog again to work things through. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But here I am, a grown-ass man KNOWING what he’s got to do in order to make that change, and I refuse to take the plunge. I watch Biggest Loser and usually eat junk food during it instead of being inspired by the incredible stories of courage and success. I lose a few pounds here or there and then think I’m okay and then BOOM~!! I’m right back to where I started. I start going to the gym, actually enjoy what I’m doing, and then find the quickest excuse NOT to go…whether it’s a valid one or not.

I know which direction I should go…I just feel lost trying to go there.

And it’s not just that. I feel lost at work sometimes. I mean, I’m a smart guy with a solid background who is finally thriving in the job I’ve always wanted. Yet some days I’m asked a question based on a conversation I had the week before and have ZERO recollection of ever having it. I make decisions that I know need double checking prior to actually double checking them. I feel like I’m losing brain cells somehow. As a grown-ass man, I know that I need to be more meticulous about what’s going on at my work…especially where I’m new and need to remember a LOT of things. Yet somehow I tell myself that I can simply remember things and then it comes to bite me in the ass.

I know which direction I should go…I just tell myself that “straight ahead” is the right road.

It’s a similar situation in my marriage, too. I know that I need to work harder on keeping the intimacy of my marriage alive. When we lived three hours apart, it was easy to go crazy on each other every other weekend. Now that we’ve been living together for over a year and a half, the intimacy isn’t there as much as it should be. Sure…sometimes it’s all about falling asleep in each other’s arms. That can be as intimate as anything else. But yet there are nights where I know that I should initiate things…but I don’t and would rather fall asleep because it’s the easy way out.

I know which direction I should go…I just feel like I should take a different path.

Bah. I realize that I need to keep my blog posts to a certain length in order to retain reader interest…yet here I am writing way too many uninteresting words.

Why can’t I figure out which direction I’m supposed to go?

Sometimes It’s Okay To Lie To Your Spouse

LiesSome may call lying to your spouse a bad thing. For me, whenever I lie to Sunshine it’s for a good cause.

Now I know that some of you might be rolling your eyes. “It’s NEVER a good reason to lie to your spouse!” I have to disagree, though, because when it comes to surprises…I’m ALL about lying!

I bring this up because I’ve become quite stealthy when it comes to surprising Sunshine with good things. For example, my proposal! I mean, everybody in my life was aware of my intentions before I actually did it…but thankfully nobody spilled the beans. I even blogged about it to tell the world while we were cruising the Caribbean seas…and she had no idea until the moment I dropped to one knee.

But it’s not only that one time. I do my best to listen to her (believe me…I’m one of the most inattentive people on the planet) so when something sticks (and it’s rare…lol), I remember it.

Thus is the case with this year’s Valentine’s Day gift.

In previous years, both Sunshine and I have never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. I mean, it’s a total cash grab. Why do we need to spend more money than we can afford just to prove to the other that we love them? We both do our best every single day to tell each other how we feel so that it’s NEVER taken for granted.

This year I felt a bit differently about things.

Obviously, we’re still in “newlywed” territory as it’s only been six months since we went through our nuptials. Because of that, love is still very much in the air. Another reason, though, is that because of my new job I can afford to do little things here and there that I wasn’t able to do previously. Nothing lavish, mind you…but just a little something more.

So back in December (yawp!!), we were visiting the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market as we normally do. We were searching around for last-minute Christmas gifts and such when we saw one of our favourite vendors. She makes jewelry and was responsible for Sunshine’s necklace at our wedding (and her daughters’ necklaces, too, if I’m not mistaken). Sunshine saw a piece…a gorgeous one-of-a-kind necklace that was on display like a lighthouse beacon in the night. She fell in love with it but, unfortunately, we had decided that we weren’t going to buy each other anything for Christmas (I was just coming off a month of unemployment, after all) and on top of that, the vendor was only going to be around for one more week before leaving the market on a permanent basis.

I immediately had wheels turning in my mind for my “big plan”. The next day I messaged the vendor on Facebook and asked her about the piece. She agreed to hold onto it until January, when I would be able to pick it up after the craziness of Christmas had died down.

The next weekend was the final one for the vendor. As we visited her, Sunshine noticed that the necklace was no longer on display. I just shrugged my shoulders and pretended to not really care that much (I’m good at that!).

A couple of weeks went by before I was able to meet up with the vendor by my work and purchase the necklace. Because Sunshine and I work in the same office now, it’s 99% impossible to sneak anything by her. I do, however, have my ways.

I had the necklace at my desk for well over a month…just waiting for Valentine’s Day to come and go. I wanted to make sure that she knew that not only did I love her, but that I was always going to do whatever I could to pay attention and try to really listen to her (again…not my strong suit).

Needless to say, she was VERY happy with her gift. And get this…she COMPLETELY lied to me on Valentines Day, too!! She concocted an entire story about visiting a friend who was leaving or something or other, and was taking a half-day from work to go see her before she left. I dunno…instead of being suspicious of the timing of her “visit”, I was more excited about how I was going to sneak my gift home to her. All the while, Sunshine was planning a HUGE romantic dinner for the two of us along with a gift of her very own.

This is why, my friends, it’s sometimes okay to lie to your spouse. The end results can be quite positive!

I Was THISCLOSE To Joining A Gym

20120319_97I’ve been saying for a few years now that I’m going to lose weight. I’ve done “Biggest Loser” competitions at my previous job, I’ve tried “lifestyle changes”, I’ve made resolutions year after year, I’ve even walked a half-marathon in the hopes that it would “keep me motivated”…yet I never seem to stick to what I’m doing. I always find a way to “fall off the wagon”.

So here I am…back to a weight I’m uncomfortable with and wanting to do something about it.

As recently as one week ago, it looked like Sunshine and I were going to join a gym. As it was, we went to the local YMCA to discuss membership options. While it wasn’t cheap, it seemed quasi-affordable and we were give a few free day-passes each to test out the facilities and see if joining was something we wanted to do.

We’ve been there a few times now and I have to admit that I enjoyed it there. I was only doing the treadmill, but I was doing an hour on various speeds and inclines, which for me is a big change from just sitting on the couch doing nothing. The idea was to join for the next three months or so…until the weather improved. At that point, we’d see if I was ready to tackle the sidewalks again or if I still enjoyed the indoor high-tech atmosphere.

This is how I felt at 15km at last year's marathon.
This is how I felt at 15km at last year’s marathon.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted out of exercise. Did I just want to continue on the treadmill? Would that help me achieve whatever goal I set for myself? Or did I want to try other machines and try to work my entire body into a better overall shape?.

I always felt a bit embarrassed when I was on the treadmill and walking at a 3.5 pace with a 4.0 incline. For me, that’s a great pace that I need to take breaks from, but then I’d look at the person next to me who SLOWS DOWN to a 3.5 after running a 10.0 for five minutes. I asked myself, “Do I want to hit that point? Will that make me happy?”

I’m not quite sure what my goals are at this point. And even though I really enjoyed the atmosphere inside of the gym, Sunshine didn’t care for it at all. She was still willing to join (because she’s awesome and all that), but then we sat back and looked at the financial aspect. At this point, especially where we’re trying to pay-off debt and start saving for our family trip to Florida…it just didn’t make sense to spend a good chunk of change on a gym membership. If we both loved it, then maybe we’d consider it. But with only one of us loving it, it just didn’t make sense…especially when she’s outside running all winter like a frickin’ BOSS.

So I’m back to square one. I’m wanting to get outside but I hate doing any kind of walking or jogging in the snow and ice. I started two years ago when preparing for my “big race” in the dead of winter…but I was motivated by not wanting to wear a dress at work or pay $50 to the guy I was up against. My motivation right now? Fitting into clothes and looking good for summertime photos. I want to sign up for another half marathon, though…so I’m hoping that motivates me a bit.

I was thisclose to joining a gym.

Our First Date: A Valentine’s Love Story

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day.  And because I’m spending this day and night with my new wife, I thought it would make a nice little story to re-post my blog of our first date. Enjoy!!

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DECEMBER 6th, 2008

We had decided that to make things as “normal” as possible and not overly awkward, I would just drive up for the day and leave after dinner in the evening. We had been talking for a couple of weeks online and were really nervous about whether or not our online chemistry would carry-over into “real life”. There had definitely been a connection online and I really was digging her, but she had some reservations. The “Saturday Day Date” was supposed to be the big test.

I didn’t hit the road as early as I would have liked, but still not too shabby…

I would be "A".  She would be "B".
I would be “A”. She would be “B”.

I was just pulling up to the half-way point of my journey…a toll booth on the Cobequid Pass when my cellphone rang. This first thing out of her mouth?

“You know you really shouldn’t be answering the phone while you’re driving.”

Heh.

I asked her to hold just a second as I paid my toll and pulled into a parking lot. A few minutes later, I was back off and running with a huge silly grin on my face…really anticipating the meeting that was less than two hours away.

As I pulled into Dartmouth, I felt the need to make a quick pit stop before going across the MacDonald Bridge into downtown Halifax. So I pulled into the Ultramar on the corner of Victoria and Woodland Avenue. I came out, pulled back onto Woodland, and turned left on Victoria when the lights turned green.

My heart sunk. My stomach flipped. I immediately panicked.

My right front was pulling to the right and I couldn’t steer. OMG!!! I immediately pulled over, threw the 4-way hazard lights on, and got out to see the damage.

FLAT AS A PANCAKE.

Are you kidding me??? Did I not have this exact same thing happen to me just a few short months ago?? I popped the trunk and began getting the spare prepared. A lady in the house I was parked in front of yelled at me to move because she was about to leave. Ugh. So I pulled across the street into a parking lot and surveyed the damage. It was a nail. A long nail.

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Oh dear lord…not today. Not today of all days.

So I raised the car and started working over the lugnuts. I couldn’t get them off. In fact, I was straining so much the car came off the jack (don’t know my own strength, I suppose…lol). I was getting frustrated because at this time it was already 9:15am and I was supposed to be meeting K.

AHHH!!

Luckily, a pleasant passer-by named Tony and his dog Roy stopped by and offered assistance. He asked if I had stood on the bar in an attempt to move the lugnuts.

“Why no…I hadn’t thought of that.”

Needless to say, he helped me get the lugnuts off and jack up the car. Once I made the switch and thanked him for being a good person, I stood back to survey the damage.

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map-3

At this point it was after 9:30am, and with K not having a cell phone and us not having made any plans in case something had happened…I was starting to panic.

So I threw everything into the trunk and rushed off to the Halifax Farmer’s Market. Once I parked and made my way to the building, I was nervous and anxious and going crazy because it was now almost 10am and she was going to be waiting outside for me at 9:00am.

After running around for 10 minutes and immediately sensing how huge this building was, I stopped and thought for a minute. She said that she sometimes liked to eat Chinese food for breakfast at the market (which is something I’ll make a regular occurence, too, when I go back with her), so I found the Chinese food kiosk next to one of the entrances and stood there; hoping that she’d pop up.

At 10 o’clock, my cell phone rang. I answered with, “I’M HERE!!” Once she found me I gave her a HUGE hug and immediately showed her my grease-covered hands. I tried explaining the story and then she laughed…

Wait….what?

She thought it was amusing. I mean seriously…out of all the days to have this happen, TODAY was the day. Heh.

The market was awesome. The tour of the market was awesome. The smells and the sights and the sounds of the market were awesome. The crowd? Not so awesome. Long story VERY short, the market was awesome and I’m definitely looking forward to going back with her.

At around 12pm, we decided to stop by her house really quick so she could drop off her purchases (veggies…meat…) and we could be off again. When she went inside…

And yes…I ended the video with, “Cool beans”. I NEVER say that phrase. Ugh.

Anyway, so we drove to Canadian Tire and picked up some tire plug stuff. LOTS of stuff I could go into at this point, but I’m trying to condense as much as possible. Let’s just say that in spite of the situation, we were absolutely making the most of our time together…laughing, talking, and just enjoying each other’s company.

There’s something to be said about making out in a store parking lot. Just sayin’.

Anyway…we pulled into a gas station and when trying to fix the hole with the plug, realized that the hole was on the SIDE of the tire, not the bottom.

OMG…that can’t be fixed.

OMG…I can’t drive all the way back to Moncton on a donut for three hours on the highway.

OMG…do I have any money in the bank for a tire?

OMG…where in the blue hell am I going to find a tire place in Halifax?

Wait…that last part should be easy. It’s Halifax, Nova Scotia for cryin’ out loud.

I went inside the gas station we were parked at, wrote down a bunch of places out of the Yellow Pages, and immediately thought that the Tire Shack would be the best choice for a cheap, used tire (hey…it’s a shack that houses tires…how much simpler can it get??). It was on Prospect Road.

“Hmmm…uhhh, K? Do you know where that is?”

“I think so, yeah.”

And off we went.

She was 100% correct about the direction. We both just didn’t realize that we’d have to drive half-way to Peggy’s Cove in order to actually find the Tire Shack location. And no…I’m not kidding. Point “A” is where we started at the Canadian Tire…Point “B” is where the Tire Shack was.

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It took us (seemingly) forever to find this place. We pulled in and I walk into the office. I explained my situation to the lady and that I was just looking for ANYTHING to put on my car for the trip back to Moncton.

“Well, we closed last February but ask the owner and see what he can do for you.”

Wait……………………………………..what?

Yeah…they were actually closed. Had been since February. OMFG.

I nervously smiled at K sitting in the car as I went from the office to the garage area, where the owner appeared to be helping out a friend’s vehicle or something. I explained things and he felt sorry for me (at least I think he did). He said that he didn’t know for sure, but would go out back and check.

He came back with a brand-new all-season tire. Uh-oh…NOT what I had in mind. He said that it retailed for $99 but considering the situation and that he wasn’t actually open or even IN BUSINESS, he’d give me a deal. So he said $88 for the tire, installation, and balancing. Not a bad deal, right?

Oh…did I forget to mention that he was closed? Because if I had mentioned that, it would have become apparent that he had no debit machine and could only take cash.

Ummm…

I had $50 in my pocket. $56.45, to be exact. I sheepishly went to the car and explained the situation to K. She was doing her best to contain her laughter at the whole story. Then I asked her how much cash she had on her.

Yes…on a first date I was bumming money from my date. “Cads-R-Us” alert!!

Pooled together, we had $84 in cash. BAH! So we were told that there was a bank machine back a little bit at the Irving we passed on the way there. We’ll be right back.

The f*cking gas station felt like it was an hour away. So I go in and grab $100 out of the machine…still chuckling at the fact I actually ASKED K FOR CASH. Wow.

We got back to the closed Tire Shack at 1:30pm. Upon further inspection, the “tire guy” realized that I had studded winter tires and would have to rotate the back one with the new front one to make sure I wasn’t all messed up. Because he didn’t notice it before, he wouldn’t charge me any extra.

We finally got finished at 2pm…just as we had hoped. I wish I could really explain how amazing K was during this entire time…but I can’t. Let’s just say that this particular part of the day was one that we both will remember forever and smile (it included cheesy 80s music, a dancing lady, pretending to be married, and LOTS of stolen kisses).

I gave the guy the entire $100 for being so awesome and we were back on the road and off to the Museum of Natural History!

K had passes to the museum so it was the least expensive part of our entire day. I shouldn’t really laugh at that part, but looking back it’s pretty funny.

So after the museum, I forced K to pick a restaurant for us (and I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, which sucks because it was amazing). We got there at 3:30pm and the front door was locked.

WTF is it now?!?!?!?

It opened at 4pm. We looked at our watches…3:30pm. Dang it. Let’s walk around for a bit. So we went into Sweet Janes on Doyle Street. Wow. It was part candy store, part San Fransisco Gifts store, part sex shop (lol). Half awesome, half creepy.

There were toys for tots (kazoos!), toys for adults (candy-thongs!!), and toys for the odd (a Jesus action figure and bobble-head doll….seriously). Oh…and there was a TON of candy, too. Honestly…this was almost as much fun as anything else we did that day.

So after learning of her sock-fetish (which will come in handy to know come Christmastime), we made our way back to the restaurant for supper. Two hours later, we realized that the date had to come to an end (and no, K…I didn’t RUSH you through your coffee…lol).

After saying our goodbyes, I drove through until Stewiake and making a pit stop…

So to summarize? I wish I could. In spite of EVERYTHING that could have possibly gone wrong (and she totally makes light of the day in her own blog post), I had one of the best days I’ve ever had.

Honestly…this totally ended up being the greatest first date I could have ever asked for. K is an absolutely amazing woman and I can’t tell you the relief I feel knowing the connection we have isn’t limited to “online only”. Regardless of where this ends up, it’s gonna be a fun ride.

The risk WAS worth the reward.

***swoon***

K
K

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Happy Valentine’s Day, baby. Thank you for making my life just a little bit better.